Abu Dhabi’s new cruise terminal is set to become operational by the end of the year.
The terminal will be capable of handling 2,500 passengers and three ships simultaneously.
“Work is progressing in full swing and we are aiming for an end-of-2015 finish to coincide with home porting plans of Royal Caribbean to base one of its Celebrity Cruise vessels at Zayed Port for the 2016-17 season,” said Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi, the chief executive of Abu Dhabi Ports Company (ADPC).
The ports developer is in talks with cruise lines to use Zayed Port as their home base for the next cruise season.
“We are negotiating with some of them and hope to make an announcement very soon,” said Mr Al Shamisi. “We are working closely with all stakeholders involved, including Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority and Etihad Airways, to make this happen.”
The next cruise season will also involve a stopover at Sir Bani Yas Island. ADPC is in the process of finalising a dedicated beach with various facilities, he said.
The plans for the terminal were announced at the Seatrade Med cruise trade show in September.
The terminal’s design was selected from a shortlist of five architectural companies. The British company BDP was the eventual winner.
“The architectural guidelines for the cruise terminal included that the design retain the heritage and identity of Zayed Port. It was also meant to bring out the cultural aspect of Abu Dhabi since it will be right opposite the Louvre,” Mr Al Shamisi said.
This meant converting an old 8,000 square metre warehouse into a state-of-the-art complex comprising space for processing cruise passengers, customs facilities and retail space.
The construction work has been split into three phases. Work on strengthening the outer steel frame and a new mezzanine floor started in January and will be completed by April, while work on the cladding and facade should be completed by the end of this month.
The third phase involving the interiors is set to begin next month and will coincide with works to build road access, car park and taxi and bus stands.
Although Mr Al Shamisi declined to predict growth in the number of cruise tourists, he said expects to replicate forecasts for the current season.
ADPC projects cruise passenger numbers to grow nearly 50 per cent this season. Zayed Port will receive 185,000 passengers and 94 ships compared with 125,000 passengers from 75 vessels in the previous 2013-14 season.
Separately, Mr Al Shamisi said ADPC expects to complete the transfer of roll-on-roll-off (Roro) ships, which transport wheeled vehicles, from Zayed Port in the capital to Khalifa Port by the end of this month. “More than 90 per cent of our clients have shifted. The transition has been smooth,” he said.
On expectation of Roro growth at Khalifa Port, Mr Al Shamisi said that with yard capacity for 360,000 vehicles a year – nearly three times that of Zayed Port – and pre-delivery inspection facilities, it should exceed 25 per cent this year from the 106,071 units last year.